A Refugee Camp Conundrum: Geopolitics, Liberal Democracy, and Protracted Refugee Situations

Jennifer Hyndman


Liberal democratic norms are embodied in refugee camps and the states that host them in a multitude of ways: through refugee law and the ‘good offices’ of the United Nations; in relation to international aid and the prerequisites recipient governments must meet to receive it; and in refugee education to name but a few. In the Dadaab camps of Northeast Kenya, democracy and law meet intense geopolitical pressures. The camps are situated in what was once contested territory during the period of colonial rule. In the early 1990s and again in 2011, as Somalia faced armed conflict and related famine, thousands of refugees fled to the Dadaab camps. The presence of Somali refugees in Kenya is not politically neutral or merely humanitarian. The contradictions between liberal democratic norms and the prevailing geopolitical sentiments that favour keeping refugees in camps them are explored in the context of Dadaab.

Full Text: